What Happens During an Asthma Attack

An asthma attack is a condition that requires immediate attention. Depending on the severity of episode, management may include monitoring your respiration and taking medication every day, even in the absence of symptoms. If you are diagnosed as an asthmatic, taking care of your asthma must become a part of your daily life routine. An asthma attack is something that must never be ignored, as this can lead to severe respiratory distress and even death.

Many people may not know it, but inflammation is the body’s way of defending itself against things that it perceives as foreign and harmful. For example, when pathogenic microorganisms such as viruses invade the respiratory tract, certain cells in the body release chemicals that produce inflammation around the foreign substance in an effort to isolate and destroy them. Remember, however, that although inflammation is a protective mechanism of the body, the development of such can be rather harmful if it occurs at the wrong time or continues after it is no longer needed.

Since our lungs are accustomed to inhaling air that contains irritants (e.g. bacteria, viruses, dust mites, cigarette smoke, pet dander, pollens) 24 hours a day, they have developed some special means of coping with these things, and normally, an inflammatory response does not occur. Nevertheless, the lungs of asthmatic individuals are more sensitive to the said irritants, and their immune system develops an exaggerated response by releasing certain cells and chemicals to the airways. When mast cells, for example, release several chemical mediators such as histamine, cytokines, leukotrienes, bradykinin, prostaglandins, as well as neutrophils, eosinophils, and lymphocytes, the following changes occur in the airways:

• The respiratory linings become swollen or inflamed, thereby narrowing the space through which air can pass through.
• The respiratory muscles go into spasm, which narrows the airways even more.
• The mucus glands of the respiratory tract may secrete lots of mucus, which occludes the airways even more.

All these changes obstruct the normal flow of air in and out of the lungs, making it difficult for asthmatics to breathe. They may also suffer from wheezes, cough, as well as chest tightness.

Asthmatic individuals can develop ongoing inflammation that makes the airways over reactive to environmental irritants. Having said that, if the inflammation is not controlled each time your airways are exposed to your asthma triggers, the inflammation increases, and you are likely to manifest the symptoms mentioned above. This is also known as bronchial hyperresponsiveness.

Asthma, just like diabetes, is a chronic disease. This means that once you develop the condition, it’s likely that you will have it for the rest of your life. Since it’s chronic, it cannot be permanently cured. So, even if symptoms don’t come up and you’re feeling totally fine, the asthma remains and can flare up anytime.

Fortunately, asthma is better understood today than a decade ago. With that said, today’s asthmatics should be able to manage their condition better than their parents did in the past. Before, being diagnosed with asthma meant living a life full of restrictions. However, that is not the case anymore. Today, people with asthma can live a normal active life if they choose to. By managing asthma effectively, their condition can be kept under control.

Although managing an asthma, or asthma attack for that matter, sounds like a troublesome feat, working closely with your doctor can make things a lot easier. Of course, there are many things to learn, but eventually, managing your condition will become such a part of your daily routine that you will just go ahead and do it almost automatically.

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